The above is a simple chart of Investment categories by risk and reward. It is in the shape of a pyramid. With Investments at the top of the pyramid an individual can expect the greatest returns but because of the risk associated with these investments an individual can also experience the greatest risk of loss. Volatility is the key. If you knew exactly when to invest in high risk areas and exactly when to sell, then you should experience the highest returns. Consequently, with the investments at the bottom of the pyramid you would expect low returns with little risk of loss of investment. The placement of investment vehicles on the pyramid is subjective and opinions as to their placement could vary.
A Mutual Fund
is a company that combines the investment funds of many people with similar investment goals and invests the funds for these people in a wide variety of securities. The individual receives shares of stock in the mutual fund and through the mutual fund are able to enjoy much wider investment diversity than they could otherwise receive. Each shareholder, in effect, owns a part of a diversified portfolio that has been acquired with the pooled money. As the securities held by the fund move up or down in price, the market value of the mutual fund shares moves accordingly. When dividend and interest payments are received by the fund, they are passed on to the mutual fund shareholders and distributed on the basis of prorated ownership.
When planning for retirement you should fully fund the tax-deductible and tax-deferred savings plans that are available to you as an individual and through your employer. First on the list should be plans where the employer makes contributions and/or matches your contributions. Next should be any IRA’s that you qualify for. As you climb the investment pyramid, it becomes increasingly important to seek help from an expert.